Bleach Vol. 1:1 - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B+

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: B+
  • Packaging Rating: N/A
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: B
  • Age Rating: 15 & Up
  • Region: 2 - Europe
  • Released By: Manga UK
  • MSRP: 24.99
  • Running time: 300
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Bleach

Bleach Vol. 1:1

By Bryan Morton     November 08, 2007
Release Date: November 05, 2007


Bleach Vol. 1:1
© Manga UK


What They Say
For as long as he can remember, Ichigo Kurosaki has been able to see ghosts. But when he meets Rukia, a Soul Reaper from the Soul Society who battles evil spirits known as Hollows, his life changes forever. Now, with a new-found wealth of spiritual energy, Ichigo discovers his true calling: to protect the living and the dead from evil at all costs!

Comprises episodes 1-12.

The Review!
Ichigo Kurosaki wasn’t particularly happy with even the ability to see ghosts – now, thanks to a run-in with a Soul Reaper from the Soul Society, he’s been handed the unenviable job of having to dispatch them to the other side as well. To add to his problems, malevolent souls called Hollows are on the lookout for tasty souls to devour – and it just turns out that Ichigo’s own is top of the delicacy pile…

Audio:
Audio is presented in English and Japanese 2.0 stereo. I’ve been trying to widen my linguistic boundaries lately, to I listed to this release in both English and Japanese. Both tracks are fairly standard stereo mixes, with some effort having been made to properly place dialogue and effects on the soundstage but nothing particularly spectacular past that. There were no obvious dropouts or other problems. As for the English track - I’ve been becoming more accepting of dubbed anime lately, and Bleach is another series where the quality of the English voice-acting has quite impressed me.

Video:
Video’s hard to quantify in one way – this is a recent show, so in general the animation is clean and colourful, while the transfer is free of any obvious encoding issues. Where it’s strange is that there are scenes dotted throughout the disc where the animation has noticeably more detail (both in terms of shading representing lighting, which adds a lot of depth to the animation, and in the amount of work that’s gone into portraying the characters) than for the rest of the disc. The scenes really do look good, but they’re different enough from the show’s usual level of animation that they do jar a bit. I can’t really criticise for the extra effort having been made, though.

Packaging:
No packaging was provided with our review copy.

Menu:
The menu is a static screen, with an image of one of the main characters (Ichigo on disc one, Rukia on disc two and Ishida on disc three) broken up under black bars. Options are provided for Play All, direct access to each episode, language setup and extras. There are no transition animations, so it’s all quick & easy to use.

Extras:
Each disc has a creditless version of the show’s closing sequence, and a gallery of production artwork. That’s your lot.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review will contain spoilers)
15-year-old Ichigo Kurosaki has an unusual talent - he's able to see ghosts. Not that that's a good thing - since the local ghosts figured out he could see them, they haven't been able to leave him alone. That’s a minor problem compared to what he saw today, though - a giant demonic creature, and a girl dressed in black: a Soul Reaper, tasked with slaying the demons. The demons (or Hollows, as the Reaper calls them) have a taste for the souls of both living and dead - and it seems that Ichigo's soul is particularly tasty. When a Hollow attacks Ichigo's home, threatening his sisters, the Soul Reaper is badly wounded, so in order to protect his family, Ichigo must take her place and become a Soul Reaper himself.

While he’s just meant to be a “substitute” Soul Reaper, Ichigo actually gets into the role quite quickly, and it soon becomes apparent that he’s got a natural talent for the job – and with Rukia’s recovery taking longer than expected, he becomes the show’s main Hollow-slayer. There are probably no surprises for guessing that he’ll be filling this role for a while – at time of writing, Bleach was up to over 150 episodes in Japan and still going strong. Of course, how many of them will make it to the UK is another thing, with Manga’s recent record of not finishing what they’ve started being a niggling worry at the back of my mind.

While Rukia and Ichigo make a good pairing, there’s also a lot of fun to be had from the supporting cast – Ichigo’s sisters Karin (who shares his ability to see spirits) and Yuzu (who refuses to believe that such things exist); his over-the-top father who’ll never make do with using words when physical ‘abuse’ will do (in the lightest, most comic possible way, of course); potential love-interest Orihime and her friend Tatsuki, who both seem to find themselves in harm’s way a little too often for their health; strong & silent type Chad, who towers above everyone else in the series and who is showing signs by the end of the disc of being someone who has some Soul Reaper-esque qualities of his own; and more besides. They’re all genuinely enjoyable to watch, each with their own little personality quirks that make them endearing or funny, and everyone introduced has their own little part to play in the story.

The only character who could be considered annoying is Ishida, a member of a group that like the Soul Reapers exists to deal with Hollows but that has a very different approach to the problem. He’s also a schoolmate of Ichigo’s, and the pair soon develop an intense dislike for each other. Ishida’s one of those downright nasty characters who you’re positively meant to dislike, and he fills that role well – his desire to one-up Ichigo and Rukia is strong enough to override any desire to play safe, at one point leading to the whole town being in danger. As villains go, he’s up there with the most demented of them.

While there’s a lot of comedy and character work in Bleach, at its heart it’s a shounen action series, so there’s a lot of emphasis on the fighting. I’m not a huge fan of fighting shows, to be honest, but Bleach handles it quite well – while the Hollows aren’t the most visually impressive creatures around and there’s the usual padding out of fights with speeches and whatnot, they don’t go on overly long, and are usually broken up with scenes showing what’s going on elsewhere – meaning you don’t get the chance to get bored with them. After watching fights in other series that go on for 7-8 episodes without a break (Naruto, anyone?), the combat in Bleach was almost a joy, and with at least some combat in every episode, action junkies are well catered for.

Highlight of the set? Episode 10, and the appearance of TV exorcist Don Kan’onji. Bwa-ha-ha-ha! He’s possibly one of the most over-the-top characters I’ve ever seen, and great fun to watch – especially the way he interacts with Ichigo. So far he’s just made the one appearance, but I really hope he gets more screentime later – it would just be too much of a shame to let such a great characters go.

In summary:
My natural bias against shounen fighting shows meant that I wasn’t expecting too much from Bleach, but I have to admit I’ve been pleasantly surprised – the show has a large fan following, and for once I can see why. There’s a great cast of characters, and each episode is split well enough between character and action scenes that there’s something for almost everyone to enjoy here. Manga have also been quite generous with the episode count for this volume, so you’re getting good value for money as well. Overall, this is one release that’s definitely worth a look.

Features
Japanese Language 2.0,English Language 2.0,English Subtitles,Creditless Ending,Production Art

Review Equipment
Toshiba 37X3030DB 37" widescreen HDTV; Sony PS3 Blu-ray player (via HDMI, upscaled to 1080p); Acoustic Solutions DS-222 5.1 speaker system.

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